I went to a company I’d never visited before to do consulting with them. I opened the front door and walked in and something was wrong. “What is this?” I thought, looking round. “Everyone is so SLOW. They’re moving slow; they’re talking slow. He’s slow and she’s slow. The janitor is slow and the CEO is slow. The whole work force is slow. They’re just slow.”
My first job after college was with a very slow company. I’ve been to many slow companies, slow people from top to bottom.
Do you know slow companies, slow people like that? Do they drive you nuts?
They’re lethargic. They take forever to make decisions. Meetings never start on time. There’s never a sense of urgency about anything. When they were students employees turned their papers in late and made excuses. Now, grown up and in a job, they haven’t changed. They turn their assignments in late and still make excuses—and no one seems to care. Deadlines don’t mean a thing if they’re inconvenient.
In a graduate course I was taking the assignment was to do a research paper and present the results in a ten-minute oral presentation. I sat there listening and thought one presentation after another was terrible. Now I knew everyone and knew that they were smarter and more knowledgeable than their presentations would suggest. I decided that they were under-performing because they weren’t setting their standards high enough. The whole class was settling for mediocrity and no one wanted to be the first to say “I’m one person who’s not going to settle for mediocrity.” They didn’t want to be the first to break the mediocrity norm.
In the same way, in some companies and non-profit organizations and schools bad habits creep in and a never-spoken-of agreement develops that no one is to work too hard. The whole organization then becomes slow. But put hard-working dynamos among them and watch the tempo pick up. Once the first student in that class gave an exceptional presentation, the habit of mediocrity was broken and the presentations that followed were very good.
I point out in my book Waging Business Warfare that business competitions are won by companies made up of “movers and firers,” enthusiastic, energetic, high-spirited people who have this in common: they always want to get into the action and mix it up with the competition. They improve morale, that miraculous state of mind producing determination, zeal, and the will to win. Quarterback great John Brodie said that at times the whole team rises up a notch or two. That’s the effect movers and firers have.
The Erwin Rommel Gauge
Erwin Rommel, the legendary German Field Marshall in WW II—the “Desert Fox” whose Blitzkrieg attacks emphasized speed above everything—said that you can tell which side is going to win the battle simply by watching the tempo with which troops move. I think that’s true of businesses and people in any walk of life, and in their personal lives too.
I would bet that using the Rommel measuring stick of employee work tempo we could predict the probable winners of business competitions, fast companies being more likely to win than slow companies.
I’d expect that skill level being more or less the same and personality issues being similar, the person with the quicker work tempo would get the promotion over the slower candidate.
So I would think the fast employee will make more money and climb higher.
I would suspect too that work tempo directly affects a company’s productivity and profitability.
Achievers and Zombies
Some people you know move through life at an accelerated clip. They’re DECISIVE. They’re QUICK. But others you know are locked in neutral, or are moving in reverse. They’re walking under water. They’re in a stupor. It’s noon before they realize they’re alive. They’re zombies.
Achievers do things fast. They know that when things are done lethargically, seven out of ten turn out poorly. They’ve got ENERGY. They’ve got ZEST. They’re EXCITABLE. Their by-word is “RIGHT NOW!”
- Get in the habit of deciding what you want to do and doing it decisively, even if it’s just taking a drink of water. If you drink, DRINK.
- Fall in love with action.
- Whatever it is, do it now.
- Be impatient with delay.
- Set the standard for speed.
- Guard against becoming a zombie.
- If you’re in a slow company be a norm-breaker, be a mover and firer.
- When a flint strikes steel, sparks fly. Be a flint striking steel. Make sparks.
The first archaeologist to the tomb, the first person to a goal, the first runner to the tape, and the first company to the market reap the richest rewards.
Whatever you’re doing, pick up the tempo.
© 2014 David J. Rogers
See my MentorCoach Interview
Order Fighting to Win: Samurai Techniques for Your Work and Life eBook by David J. Rogers
Order Waging Business Warfare: Lessons From the Military Masters in Achieving Competitive Superiority